It’s not often I start a new job and discover fellow foodies in my team; more often new colleagues find my interest (they tend to use the term obsession) surprising, beyond their comprehension, even weird. Of course, they tend to come around when the chocolate review samples make it into the office…

TomCoxMiniWhich means it was nice to start my current contract and find that several of my teammates are pretty keen on food too. One told me about cookery classes he’s attended recently. Another discussed her weekend addiction to burgers (though she’s veggie during the week). And one talked animatedly about the forest of chilli plants he’s nurturing and the various cookery books which are most popular in his house at the moment.

It didn’t take long for me to invite Tom Cox to write content for Kavey Eats. He’s not only keen on eating out and cooking at home, he also loves reviewing stuff and writing about it!

Over to Tom for his feedback on Tabasco’s Sauces & Marinade collection.

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Chipotle and Smokey Bourbon (Mild) 3.5*

A tomato based sauce spiced with Tabasco brand pepper sauces, Scotch and Bourbon Whiskies

This had a nice smoky flavour, quite like a smoky barbeque sauce with just a hint of spice and a relish-like hit. Perfect on burgers or ribs (as the back of the bottle suggests and very rightly so). It is however quite sweet (although it has nothing on chipotle and cola) and I can’t really detect any sign of a Bourbon-y taste, more like smoky, ever-so-slightly spicy barbeque. We tried to use this as a marinade for some chicken we were doing on the barbeque but unlike the back of the bottle says, this isn’t suitable for use as a marinade on its own and may need mixing with some oil to avoid it sticking and stripping all the skin and sauce off.

Sweet Chipotle and Cola (Mild) 1.5*

A sweet sauce spiced with Tabasco brand pepper sauces and cola flavoured soft drink

We had really high expectations for this one, me being a fan of all the weird and wonderful things I can possibly find to eat (this is pretty tame but appealed). However, this was our least favourite. The problem was it was far too sweet and I swear even had a very mild foamy banana taste (the ones you get from the pick and mix, not a banana that had the misfortune of catching fruit rabies). It did however have a nice mild warmth and I’m sure if you like mildly spicy and very sweet then this would do it for you.

Peppery Deep South Creole (Medium) 4*

A tomato based sauce spiced with Tabasco brand pepper sauce

A nice mild heat and this is the one you definitely want at your barbeque. A nice blend of ketchup-like sweetness and tomato-tartness with a lovely medium heat and sweet peppery flavours. This would be absolutely perfect on your burger or an addition to a chilli for a chilli dog. A really great take on a barbeque classic.

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Fruity and Fiery Hot Habanero (Hot) 4*

This was the most interesting; the first 2 seemed like jumped up ketchup/ barbeque sauce (don’t get me wrong I’m all for making those two things a little more exciting) but this one was a little different. It had a nice manageable heat for people that like heat and had a really exotic flavour – like a fruity, spicy Indian piccalilli but a little less tart (owing to the mango and papaya I would guess). Again I would agree with the back of the bottle on this one – it would be nice in a stir fry as the main event but I feel it might be a bit out of place at your summer barbeque.

 

Overall I like that Tabasco are trying new things other than a scorching sauce that is useful only for supposedly encouraging growth of so far virtually non-existent hairs on my chest (I like to think of it more as highly evolved). They’ve managed to put a new, more flavoursome and spicy spin on some otherwise quite dull table condiments and hopefully we’ll see a lot more new and exciting innovation from this capsaicin crazed company.

 

Kavey Eats received sample products from Tabasco.

 

Every time we make pancakes I say the same thing: we don’t make pancakes enough! They are simple and quick to make and so versatile when it comes to fillings or toppings. On those rare occasions we actually get crêpeing, I tend to veer towards the sweet side more often than not. This time it was the turn of savoury.

Cheese and ham are a classic pairing and a favourite in our house. We often add a smear of sweet hot chilli jam when making cheese and ham on toast, so I was confident the same combination would work in a pancake. For the Madame version, we simply added an egg! (I’ve provided recipes for both versions, below).

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To make the pancakes, you can use your standard crêpe recipe – we’re looking for thin French-style pancakes here, not the thick and fluffy kind. I tend to refer to Delia for this. Alternatively, use the Asda Mix-o-meter which helpfully scales the batter recipe up or down for you depending on how many pancakes you want to make.

I’d suggest making all the pancakes first, so you can find your rhythm and get your cooking time and flipping technique down pat.

 

Recipe: Pancakes Cheese, Ham & Chilli Jam

Ingredients (per pancake)
1 crêpe
1 slice good quality ham
1-2 teaspoons chilli jam
Approximately 2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese

Note: I recommend two pancakes per person.

Method

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  • Spread the chilli jam onto one side of the ham.

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  • Place the crêpe into a flat-bottomed frying pan on low to medium heat. Put the ham on top – chilli jam side up – and sprinkle the cheese over it.
  • Fold the pancake in half and cook on one side for a minute or two before turning over to heat the other side. This shouldn’t need long as you’re just heating through and melting the cheese.
  • Serve hot.

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Recipe: Pancakes Cheese, Ham & Chilli Jam, Madame!

Ingredients (per pancake)
1 crêpe
1 slice good quality ham
1-2 teaspoons chilli jam
Approximately 2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
1 egg

Note: I recommend two pancakes per person.

Method

  • Turn your grill on to medium-high heat.
  • Spread the chilli jam onto one side of the ham.

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  • Place the crêpe into an oven-proof pan. Put the ham on top – chilli jam side up – and sprinkle the cheese over it.

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  • Carefully break the egg into the centre of the pancake and fold the sides in to form a square. The egg yolk should be uncovered, in the centre (nudge with your finger if necessary).
  • Place the pan under the grill for a few minutes until the egg white is cooked.
  • Serve hot.

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This is a paid post for ASDA. Kavey Eats has been paid for developing and sharing this recipe.

 

Serendipity and silver linings. That’s how Edible Ornamentals came into being.

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Joanna Plumb, who runs the business with her husband Shawn, told us the story. Many years ago, her parents (who were commercial cucumber farmers) were approached by a national DIY store to grow 3000 chilli plants for their shops. Unfortunately, the DIY company pulled out of the deal leaving Joanna’s parents with 3000 unwanted chilli plants and the headache of watering and nurturing them with no buyer in sight. Just before her dad decided to compost the lot, Joanna (who was studying for a horticultural qualification at the time) stepped in and devised a plan to sell them at car boot sales. She quickly expanded to include local farmers markets and was happy to find that the chilli plants were hugely popular and sold well.

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Shawn and Joanna set up their chilli growing business in 2001. In 2007 they purchased Cherwood Nursery, a disused flower nursery Chawston, Bedfordshire, and Edible Ornamentals finally had space to grow. Since then they’ve added several new polytunnels, a staff room, a shop-cum-cafe and a proper kitchen unit. At the time of our visit they building a new outdoor seating area to expand the cafe and provide a pleasant space for visitors to sit and enjoy.

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Back in the 1990s the couple lived for a few years in Antonio Texas, where they developed a love of chillis and began growing some of the locally popular varieties. When they returned to the UK they brought back with them an abiding love for chillis and a wide range of Tex-Mex recipes. These recipes gave them a great basis to expand their business into making bottled sauces, jams and relishes which they sell onsite and online. In fact, Joanna was a walking chilli-recipe database and rattled off lots of suggestions as she walked us around the polytunnels and greenhouses full of plants, picking and telling us about different varieties of chillis as she went.

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As well as chillis, Shawn and Joanna also grow tomatillos which is how we’d come to visit in the first place. Already supplying their specialist chillies to the catering industry, when Chipotle Mexican Grill were unable to find fresh tomatillos in the UK, Edible Ornamentals were able to help. They were already very familiar with tomatillos, which are a popular ingredient in Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking. Chipotle got in touch with me asking if we’d like to visit the farm with MD Jacob but sadly we were not able to make the proposed date. They kindly arranged for us to visit on our own in June. We’ll also be visiting the restaurant later this summer to taste their tomatillo dishes for ourselves.

Like tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, chillis and peppers, tomatillos are a member of the nightshade family but they fall within the physalis genus. Native to Mexico, they are similar to and part of the same genus as cape gooseberries (which we know here as physalis) and and which originated in Peru, Columbia and Ecuador. They have the same lantern-like papery husk surrounding a smooth round fruit. Joanna told us how they’re the key ingredient for green salsa amongst many other dishes.

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As we know from our own allotment and garden experiences, everything has been a bit late this year and in June the tomatillos weren’t yet ready for harvest, though there were plenty of pretty lanterns containing growing fruits within. To our delight, Joanna kindly gave us two tomatillo plants (they don’t self-pollinate so you need a minimum of two for them to set fruit) so we’ll hopefully be able to harvest our own later this summer.

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Joanna also gave us a collection of pimento de padron, jalapeño, serrano and poblano chillis to take home – I’ll be sharing some recipes soon.

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Joanna’s Chilli Growing Tips

I asked Joanna for her key tips for growing chillis at home. We have grown several types from seeds as well as purchased and been given the occasional plants and love the satisfaction of harvesting colourful fresh chillis throughout the summer and autumn.

  • Don’t Overwater! Chillis originate in hot climates, so are used to being a little parched.
  • Use good quality multi-purpose compost.
  • Pick chillis from your plant regularly – don’t wait till they’re all red to pick. Removing fruits encourages the plants to create more, so you’ll get a much bigger harvest overall.
  • Chillis aren’t just about heat. Find a variety that has a flavour you really enjoy.

I asked her to suggest three varieties she loves and recommends.

  • Jalapeño – a milder chilli that works well stuffed with cream cheese and either wrapped in bacon or breadcrumbs and grilled or fried.
  • Pimento de padron – a great medium heat chilli that is beautiful grilled or barbecued and served as tapas.
  • Dorset Naga – a super hot chilli that has a beautifully aromatic flavour. Use a tiny sliver in a curry or in red onion marmalade. Joanne used a single chilli in a 30 jar batch and it was plenty!

 

So there you have it. Do you have any great chilli growing tips or recipes or stories to share? I’d love to read them!

With thanks to Edible Ornamentals for the lovely tour, chillis and tomatillo plants and to Chipotle Mexican Grill for organising our visit.

 

I am a chilli wuss. For someone of Indian descent, this can be quite embarrassing. People are constantly surprised by my inability to tolerate chilli heat and even my mum has to tone down the heat a little when cooking for me. And North Indian cuisine isn’t that hot to begin with!

It’s not that I don’t like chillies at all – the wide variety of flavours can be wonderful. But anything too hot burns my taste buds and lips so badly that not only am I in genuine pain but I’m also quite unable to taste any of the other flavours of the dish in question.

So I’ve been left pretty cold by the current craze for extremely hot sauces.

I do use chillies in my own cooking, where I can carefully control the heat levels, and have enjoyed experimenting with dried Mexican dried chillies.

But ready-made hot sauces? I’ve steered clear of those!

I met Grant Hawthorne, highly talented and experienced master chef, when he lead the enormous brigade of chefs for the Kai We Care charity dinner last year. Grant hails from Cape Town but has been living and working in the UK for 12 years. He’s one of those people you can’t help but warm to – hugely knowledgeable and talented yet quiet, thoughtful and unassuming in mannerism, with a genuine warmth and concern for others that is heart warming.

Grant has recently developed and launched a brand new product, his African Volcano Peri Peri sauces and marinades.

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Peri Peri (also known as piri piri and pili pili) is a marinade and seasoning sauce of Portuguese origin and is particularly popular in parts of Southern Africa (presumably as a result of the culinary diaspora that occurred during the centuries of European empires). It’s usually made from chillies, onion, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and a mix of spices and herbs.

Grant’s version uses a variety of chillies including Scotch Bonnet and Dorset Naga. All are sourced from Edible Ornamentals in Bedfordshire. The good news for me is that Grant, like me, is not a fan of extreme chilli heat. So he’s developed his peri peri products to give flavour first, which lingers pleasantly in the mouth, and then a gentle heat that warms rather than burns the mouth.

Since South African chain Nando’s opened in the UK, in the mid ’90s, peri peri chicken has become far better known here than it used to be. What you may not know is that Nando’s originated within the Mozambiquan Portuguese community in South Africa, as Mozambique was part of Portugal’s East African empire.

Grant originally learned how to make a great peri peri from a Mozambique-born woman who fled the revolution in Mozambique and settled in Cape Town. Since then, he’s modified the recipe gradually over the years, resulting in today’s African Volcano.

The sauce (which is a cooked version of the marinade) we use on its own straight out of the bottle and, as long as I don’t dip too generously, the level of heat is just within my comfort zone. Good with nachos or home made chips.

The marinade does just what a good marinade should do – imbues the meat with wonderful, deeply delicious flavours.

Note: don’t worry if the oil separates from the rest of the ingredients a little during storage. This is a natural product and a vigorous shake will emulsify the oil back into the rest of the sauce very quickly.

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Breast fillets in neat African Volcano marinade; boned chicken thighs in full fat crème fraiche and African Volcano marinade

As Pete can tolerate more heat than I, we use the African Volcano marinade neat on his preferred chicken breast fillets. For me, I mix it with either full fat natural yoghurt or crème fraiche and liberally coat my preferred chicken thighs.

Both are either grilled or baked in a hot oven.

This time, I doubled up portions, so we could enjoy the rest with a salad the next day.

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You could grill or barbeque the meat, but so far, we’ve baked it in the oven, which has worked very well. The meat remains incredibly moist (even the breast fillet, which is a dryer cut) and the flavours are just wonderful.

Please don’t think I’m recommending African Volcano to you because Grant has become a personal friend over the last year. He has, but, as he and other friends know very well, I’m always honest about what I like and don’t like, and that’s probably even more so when it comes to products and services offered by friends and family rather than by strangers.

If I didn’t genuinely love African Volcano Peri Peri, I would not be suggesting you buy some for yourself. And in case it’s not clear, I am!

And if that weren’t reason enough already, Grant is donating 30 pence from every bottle sold to support the work of Habitat for Humanity, a South African charity that encourages those with money and skills to work alongside members of South Africa’s poorest communities, providing capital and co-workers in building affordable housing.

To buy your own African Volcano Peri Peri, either visit Grant at his stall in Maltby Street Market on Saturdays, or purchase from one of his retail stockists. You can also drop him an email via his website, to organise mail order.

 

The Capsicana Chilli Company sells, you guessed it, chillies!

I used Capsicana’s chillies in anger, so to speak, when I made Valentine Warner’s carne con chile recipe a few months ago. The smells they released during cooking were heady and the flavour they gave to the finished dish was wonderful. The ancho poblano chilli brought a distinctive dried fruit flavour and the chipotle a wonderfully smoky kick.

Most of the product range is from Mexico and includes familiar names such as ancho poblano, chipotle and habanero (which smells like chocolate!) Capsicana also sell a selection of herbs and spices, including spice mixes.

Capsicana Group pack shot

WIN!

The best way to learn the distinct characteristics of these different chillis, herbs and spices is to cook with them yourself so I’m delighted to be able to offer not one, not two, not three but four Capsicana Chilli Co. sets to readers of Kavey Eats.

PRIZE

Each prize set includes the following products and is worth over £40! UK delivery is included.

  • Chillies – Ancho Poblano, Bhut Jolokia, Cascabel, Chipotle, Guajillo, Habanero, Pasilla, Piquin
  • Herbs & Spices – Mexican Oregano, Annatto Powder, Epazote, Mexican Cinnamon
  • Mixes - Fajita Mix, Salsa Chilli Kit

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 2 ways.

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, answering the following question:
What recipe(s) would this selection of Capsicana chillis, spices and herbs inspire you to cook?

Entry 2 – Twitter
First follow both @Capsicana and @kaveyf accounts. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I’d love to win chillies, spices & herbs from @Capsicana Chilli Co & Kavey Eats! #KaveyEatsCapsicana

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Monday 14th May 2012.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • The prize (of which there are four) is a selection of chillies, spices and herbs, as listed above, and includes delivery to a UK mainland address only.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for cash.
  • The prize is offered directly by the Capsicana Chilli Company.
  • One blog entry per person only. One twitter entry per person only. You do not have to enter both ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For twitter entries, winners must be following both @kaveyf and @capsicana accounts at the time of notification, as this will be sent by Direct Message.
  • Blog comment entries must provide an email address for contacting the winner. For those leaving a comment using their Google ID, please make sure an email address is visible directly in your profile.
  • The winners will be notified by email or twitter. If no response is received within 5 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.
  • 29/4/12: Please note that the deadline for this competition has been extended from the original deadline of 4th May to 14th May and an extra prize set has been also added.

*If you don’t have a secondary email address already and are nervous about sharing your main email address on the internet, why not set up a new free email account on hotmail, gmail or yahoo, that you can use to enter competitions like this?


The four winners of this competition are Girish Balachandran, Angela Currie, Ruth Bourne and @snarepuss.

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